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5 Effective Team Communication Strategies For Online Collaboration

Category: B2B News
What are effective team communication strategies?

Effective team communication strategies involve creating clear-cut project plans, touching base with your team regularly, and ensuring real-time communication. In addition to these, it is also crucial to have the right collaboration tools and to provide communication training for your employees.

Effective communication is the lifeblood of every successful project. It allows you to effectively collaborate with your teammates and make sure that your endeavors are going as planned. However, this is a skill that not everyone has as a natural talent. This is why it is important to learn some effective communication strategies that will allow you to make the most out of your online collaboration efforts.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the tools, techniques, and tactics that you can use to enhance team and project communication. Moreover, we will be discussing some of the trends that you might want to consider to optimize your collaboration efforts according to what’s new in the industry.

A successful project comes about with a competent team, effective team management and a capable project leader, bonded together by a common goal and clear communication. The importance of communication in project management can’t be emphasized enough.

As a matter of fact, many studies point to poor or ineffective communication as the number one reason or among the top factors for project failure.

Communication gels different parts together – products, processes, and people – to operate a well-oiled engine that runs smoothly. It keeps components organized and transparent so that everything goes according to plan, budget, resources, and schedule. Projects get to be completed successfully when everyone involved understands and are fully informed of their roles and responsibilities.

Guide To Effective Team Communication

The Project Management Institute (PMI) points to three broad categories – people, process, and communications – as top causes for project fails. When you think about it, communications cut across people and processes. As a matter of fact, among the project managers surveyed 43% said that communication factors were key reasons for project failure, with process factors coming in second at 42%, and people at third with 32%.

The cost of business is also high. Do you know that businesses lose $11,000 per employee each year, on average, because of ineffective communications and poor project collaboration? In a regular working day, an employee spends two-thirds of the time communicating and collaborating, mostly on reading and replying to emails. Even if the email is an established communication tool, there are many others that are faster and more efficient such as live chat, real-time messaging, video calls, and even mobile.

The point is that there is no lack of tools, techniques, and technologies to simplify, streamline, and accelerate how we connect and collaborate with co-workers and teams inside and outside of the office so that we mitigate the high cost and inefficiency as well as increase your chances of project success. To help you out, we have outlined some strategies that you can apply to maximize your online collaboration software, team communication platforms, and project management tools.

Communication skill in various forms is now the most in-demand proficiency among business school graduates. Credits: mba.com

Characteristics of Effective Team Communication

What constitutes effective communication? The following are strong indicators that team communication is at healthy levels:

  1. It allows you to have a singular team vision. Effective team communication clears barriers and confusion. It offers a clear direction and a common vision where each team member can give out their best in pursuit of shared goals. Clarity facilitates progress and unifies the team when it comes to obstacles and challenges.
  2. It lets you perform efficient actions. In relation to clarity and understanding, correct messages that are relayed and received via an effective team communication network can lead to timely decisions and efficient action. As we learned earlier, poor communication can be costly and lead to project failure.
  3. It encourages input. Effective communication fosters open communication, encouraging inputs from team members which can be vital in resolving issues or finishing projects. It boosts team morale as it gives team members that chance to contribute and be heard.
  4. It creates understanding. A project team can consist of people with a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. They can be brought together with efficient communication and online collaboration system, with each able to understand individual teammates and their part in the project.
  5. It builds trust and teamwork. Occasional conflicts and disagreements cannot be totally eliminated when people work together, but effective communication can lessen this and even forge stronger relationships with teammates. This is important as successful teams are based on solid relationships between individual members in order to build a cohesive group, and good communication plays a big part in this.

The benefits of effective communication extend beyond the team and will facilitate improved working relations vertically and horizontally in the organization. You and your team can better inform management and supervisors as well as support people under your jurisdiction of work progress and details. You’ll also be able to properly coordinate information, resources, and activities with partners, vendors, suppliers, and clients.

This write-up will mostly focus on how to lay out efficient team communication using best practices and techniques, as well as technologies such as effective team communication tools, team collaboration tools, and communications software, to name some. Consider these as pointers on how to keep people, processes, and communications working as one for you and your team.

Team Communication Tools and Techniques

What are the tools and techniques for effective team communication? Here are five strategies to start with:

1. Come up with a solid project communication plan

Whatever organization you’re with or project you’re working on, you need a solid communication plan. It helps you set expectations with your team and stakeholders early on in your project and better shields your from demands that are outside the project scope. While being flexible should be part of the qualities of a project leader, unrealistic demands will drain resources and affect project delivery. A communication plan just like a project plan will properly inform everyone of the scope, components, and individual and collective roles, among others.

What must a good project communication plan include?

  1. Parameters. Share to your people and client specifics and scope they should be aware of – project size, timeline, deliverables, the project team, resources, client information, etc.
  2. Objective. If the objective is to deliver a project 100% within budget in the next 6 months, state it and relay it.
  3. Goals. Lay down actionable goals or the steps you have to follow through that will help you and your team attain your objective.
  4. Process. How will you implement your communication process? Will it be through regular meetings, video conferencing, or other similar communication tools?

The communication process should not be a problem even if you handle remote teams. Many of today’s project management software have online communication and collaboration functions to ensure that your team members are on the loop and updated in real-time of work progress no matter where they are. A good example is the award-winning platform Wrike that allows cross-team collaboration through built-in messaging, live activity stream, email integration, and calendar synchronization, among others. Why not use its features at no cost and see how it could improve your team communication? Simply sign up for a Wrike free trial.

Project management software like Wrike shows tasks and their owners, nurturing accountability and transparency, which are essential to clear communication.

2. Set clear standards and touch base with your employees regularly

Among the qualities that make an effective team leader is that he or she must be a clear communicator. Despite the prevailing notion, however, communication consists of many skills which, for a team leader, include listening, coaching, motivating, negotiating, compromising, and resolving conflicts. This is why it’s important that you not only provide clear instructions but also touch base with your employees regularly to make sure everybody is on the same page at all times. There are best practices that can be applied to ensure that you communicate well, such as the following:

  1. Set ground rules or SOPs. There may be organization-wide guidelines covering internal communications, but your team should also have its own specific to your project. It may include such things as reasonable response time for email or steps to follow in managing the exchange of information and communication in different time zones for remote teams. The thing is that there are clear procedures to guide you and your team on how to communicate effectively and be on the same page.
  2. Instill into everyone what communication is. Make sure that teams members know how vital it is to communicate. There are many aspects and means of communication – talking, phone calls, email, notes, texts, team meetings, business terms, industry jargons, etc. – which your team can use to connect with others and get their message across. Unhindered connections remove silos that can otherwise bog down project processes.
  3. Make it communication constructive. Develop and instill a culture of constructive criticism. Team dynamics may naturally involve differing opinions but don’t let these disparities tear down professional working relationships between you and your group or among group members. While openness is encouraged, this is not a license to speak detrimentally of a co-worker. Again lay the ground rules and stick to the facts. Encourage a practice of team members encouraging and positively interacting with each other, and catching others doing right.
  4. Keep communication on a professional level. Keeping your communication professional when it comes to work, earns you respect and credibility. It makes everything so much easier because professionalism begets professionalism – your people will follow you because they will share with you your commitment and collective vision. Being fair and impartial foster openness in your team, allowing them to work together based on mutual respect and discipline.
  5. Undertake face-to-face communication. This could be put to use if you catch someone doing wrong or is out of step, and may need a gentle reminder and one-on-one guidance. More than that, face-to-face communication is widely considered a most effective method for delivering messages within and into your team, and even more efficient when supported by whiteboards or discussion boards and other such tools which is quite helpful if you handle distributed teams across various locations. Of course, this method can be done virtually anywhere today using mobile devices and video call or video conferencing apps.

Now, how often should you do all of the above? Ground rules should be set beforehand while the others should be done regularly enough until such time that effective communication becomes second nature to your team. This can easily be determined once you see tasks and processes moving more smoothly, assignments are completed on schedule, and a sense of professionalism pervades all around.

3. Ensure real-time communication

Messages and information that do not reach intended recipients on time can lead to wasted opportunities and confusion. There is no reason not to be able to communicate clearly and fast with today’s communication software and collaboration platform. Real-time updates and instant two-way communication via instant messaging, phone calls, and video conferencing, drives productivity and efficiency, keeping team members up to snuff on project progress.

A fast-growing trend among software vendors is to offer mobile versions of their apps. You should look into leveraging this technology as it affords you anytime, anywhere communication with your team. It’s like having your office and your team with you on the go, unhampered by time and geography. Furthermore, some 60% of employees already use apps for work-related activities which resulted in a 34% boost in productivity.

Among the many advantages of having instant communication is that you are able to quickly address issues without having to wait for the next regular meeting or go through the team hierarchy. A team strategy that supports real-time communication enables you and your people to respond and decide immediately on the best course of action when unexpected issues crop up. The net result is a more agile and responsive team capable of addressing and overcoming unforeseen problems.

Project management software like Monday.com has a built-in tool for real-time communication.

4. Get the right tools

Without an effective communication practice in place, you would be hard-pressed to manage even a small team of half a dozen members. The challenges are amplified many times over if you have a team or teams of over a hundred people working simultaneously in the office, at home, and in different regions or countries. You need to invest in tools and technologies that streamline and enhance team communication.

This is possible with the current crop of software solutions that are designed to make collaboration and communication much easier. While many software of whatever classification provide some sort of collaboration/communication feature in one form or another or integration with email and document sharing apps, we’ll go over some of those that offer dedicated functions:

  1. Collaboration Platform. Collaboration software solutions enable team members to work together on different activities and projects and generally consists of tools for effective communication, document exchange, conferencing, and real-time assistance for remote teams. Among the popular collaboration platforms that you might want to consider is Monday.com
  2. Project Management Software. Completing projects involve a lot of people and processes and project management platforms offer tools to tie all of them in one platform, providing collaboration and communication functionalities to make sure everyone is on the same page. One such example of this, as mentioned previously, is Wrike.
  3. Communications Software. Communications tools are designed to help team members exchange data and discuss projects and corporate operations in real time. It allows them to transmit information from one system to another and exchange files in various formats. Popular communication software types are messaging apps, live chat systems, FTPs (file transfer protocols), VoIP, and email providers. One such platform that can provide you with all of these functionalities is RingCentral.
  4. Video Conferencing Software. These video conferencing programs are utilized by teams in diverse locations to conduct live conferences and meetings, allowing them to collaborate and share files whether text, audio, and video. A good example of this tool would be Skype.

Remote team communication or virtual team communication can facilitate how you connect with and interact with your teams no matter where they are. Communication and collaboration functionalities are important features in whatever type of software you use and should be a priority feature when looking for a business solution.

Video conferencing and instant messaging allow you to manage remote teams efficiently

5. Train your team in effective communication

You know that your projects are placed on a precarious situation when your team suffers from poor communication. You have to put great importance in this particular aspect of your business especially if you deliver projects for clients. The next best thing you can do is invest in good communication training.

This can be part of your regular corporate employee skills and development program or specialized standalone training for your project team. The training course should cover the basics of communication, how to improve speaking and business writing skills, how to develop presentation and reporting skills, as well as leadership skills training to identify potential managers and project leaders who are great communicators. Training will cost you but remember that the returns will further outweigh the cost when you consistently complete projects successfully.

While most communication, collaboration, and project management solutions are designed to be intuitive and easy to use, you can explore webinars and video tutorials that vendors normally offer for free to let you master their products. Often, there are knowledge resources made available that focuses not only on the product but general topics such as improving team collaboration and communication skills. There are also many free or affordable online learning courses that your team members can enroll in to stack up on their knowledge of the subject.

Communications training is often a neglected area, justified by the notion that we communicate with various tools every day so why bother? With training, you are targeting not just any kind of communication but effective communication that helps you deliver projects. Communication training will provide your team the discipline, education, and preparation to handle tasks and activities. It will reset your team to become even more efficient and productive, and further solidify the effective communications culture that you aspire for your team.

What’s Next for Online Collaboration

Now that we’ve finished tackling the best practices that you can use to boost your collaboration efforts, there’s another aspect that you should keep in mind to ensure the success of your projects: keeping track of emerging trends in the industry.

By understanding how these software solutions are evolving and how they are being used by other professionals, you can maintain your edge against the competition. Furthermore, this allows you to make room for improvements in your workflow, keeping you from being complacent about your collaboration strategies.

So, without further ado, here are some of the online collaboration trends that you should look out for in the next few years:

  1. Expect Bots in Your Collaboration Software. Just as Apple has Siri and Amazon has Alexa, online collaboration tools will soon be providing you with virtual assistants. Current platforms are already leveraging NLP and AI to help you get the information you need instantly, automate menial tasks, and give you insights on your performance. Eventually, you will be able to do all of these things without even lifting a finger. All you’ll have to do is ask your queries to the bot and it will pull the files, scan schedules, and check information as necessary. With that said, you might want to consider researching how you can make the most out of these virtual assistants. They may be designed to work as personal secretaries but they certainly won’t be able to adapt to your needs the way a human employee will. It is best to look into best practices when it comes to using this type of technology so that you can lessen the learning curve once you implement it.
  2. Virtual and Augmented Reality Will Be In Demand. The VR and AR market is predicted to grow to a whopping $16.1 billion by 2025. While you may expect that the video gaming industry is going to be the largest contributor to this growth, researchers believe otherwise as the application of this technology is quite diverse. The healthcare industry is currently using these to train medical students while the engineering industry is using this to create mock-ups of new machinery. As for online collaboration, software developers are now using this technology to create virtual boardrooms. This will allow teams to work remotely while still being able to collaborate as if they were in the same room.
  3. Big Data Will Increasingly Be Important. As with plenty of other types of software, big data will also be increasingly important for online collaboration. You can expect more and more providers offering this feature as part of their software because it helps professionals in creating better and faster business decisions. Moreover, it is great for pinpointing any bottlenecks in your workflow that might be affecting overall team collaboration.

Effective Strategies + Right Tool = Better Communication

Good communication is a fundamental requirement for project success, regardless if you have a team of in-house employees, remote workers, or a combination of both. If you are presently experiencing communication issues with your team, know that there are steps you can take such as those we’ve presented above that can help you fine tune and reboot your team communications strategy.

Effective communication is built on openness and unhindered information, professionalism and best practices, and the proper and simplified use of communication tools. Focus on understanding what effective communication is all about for you and your team, and you’re on your way to providing optimum business value and achieving our project objective in the shortest time.

If you’re still struggling, don’t worry, finding the right tool to improve your team communication might help. Check out our list of top online collaboration tools for virtual teams and try out some solutions recommended by experts.

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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